Brooklyn DA adds new resources for people sentenced to community service
Major changes are happening in the criminal justice system in New York State, and as more people are sentenced to alternative forms of incarceration, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez is trying to do his part to offer options.
Gonzalez announced on Thursday that his office will create a community resource empowerment center to offer educational and vocational opportunities to people who are sentenced to community service.
Through the center, people who have been sentenced to community service can take educational and job-training courses that will also fulfill their court-mandated community service time instead of just finding traditional cleaning assignments.
This is part of Gonzalez’s push to decrease the number of people that his office sends to Rikers Island.
“I am committed to holding offenders accountable in ways that are meaningful, because putting individuals on a positive track reduces recidivism and promotes public safety,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve now expanded this approach to court-mandated community service.
“Our new Community Resource Empowerment Center, which embodies the core principals of my Justice 2020 plan, provides an array of opportunities for people to better their lives and end their criminal cases with tools that would help them succeed,” Gonzalez continued. “This will help keep Brooklyn safe and strengthen community trust.”
The Brooklyn DA’s Community Service Office has been officially renamed the Brooklyn Community Resource Empowerment Center and it will offer GED classes, job training and mental health services.
Gonzalez called it a first-of-its-kind resource center that will also offer HIV testing, housing assistance and referrals to community-based organizations.
The center is located inside the Criminal Court on Schermerhorn Street and it will evaluate every defendant sentenced to community service, referring them as necessary to either traditional community service jobs, like park cleaning duties, or other programs like GED classes, computer skills training, even OSHA certifications and other services.
Gonzalez pointed out that empirical research shows that this approach, as opposed to longer and more harsh punishments, helps to reduce recidivism and is an effective crime-prevention strategy. He also said that he considered input from local residents, who have called for such services.
Gonzalez also said that his office will conduct focus groups with participants to hear about their experiences with the program so they can revise it as needed.
The center will be directed by Norma Fernandes and Chief of Social Justice Meg Reiss.
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